Grilled romaine is one of those things that I order every time I see it on a menu. It’s just such a fascinating hybrid to me of two things that I wouldn’t at all think belong together: the grill, with its rough, hot brutishness juxtaposed with the tender, crispy leaves of “spa food” infamy. What sounds like failure in the making may in fact change the way you feel about romaine forever.
Grilling romaine at home is not a complicated or lengthy process. A quick spritz with some nonstick spray, 30 seconds of high-heat contact and BAM! Otherwise boring greens take on new life with a smoky aroma and toasted flavor with enough depth to let them stand on their own as a dinner centerpiece.
I stole a page from my friend Charissa’s recipe book and charred a grapefruit to serve as the base of this salad’s dressing. Its subtle tartness plus the charred leaves and a few toasted almonds make beautiful culinary harmony.
One note on the prep: Since leeks tend to be very sandy, I sliced them in half from root to tip and ran the cut side under cold water, gently pulling the layers apart to rinse away any sediment. This cleans the leeks out and also puts a bit of moisture in them, which helps to steam and tenderize them while they’re on the grill.
Grilled Romaine With Charred Grapefruit Dressing
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
1 large or 2 small ruby red grapefruits, halved
1 small leek, split lengthwise and rinsed
Nonstick cooking spray
3 tablespoons high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 large heads romaine, split lengthwise
1/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup shaved Manchego cheese (from about a 1-ounce chunk)
Preheat a grill to high heat.
Lightly grease the cut sides of the grapefruit(s) and leek with nonstick cooking spray. Grill them both, cut side down, until they are charred and the leeks are tender, about 2 minutes for the grapefruit and 3 minutes for the leeks. Let cool slightly.
Juice the grapefruit into a large mixing bowl (you should have about 1/2 cup juice). Chop the leeks and add them to the bowl with the grapefruit juice. Add the olive oil, honey, and some salt and pepper to the bowl and whisk to combine. Reserve.
Lightly grease the cut sides of the romaine with nonstick cooking spray. Grill the lettuce, cut-side down, until aromatic and charred, about 30 seconds. Transfer the lettuce to serving plates. Drizzle it with the prepared dressing and garnish with almonds and shaved cheese. Serve immediately.
SERVING SUGGESTION: Because my husband is one of those “this is good, but I’m still hungry” kind of people, I added some grilled chicken alongside. Do as you please — this would be perfect with a fillet of salmon, pork chop or all on its own.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Bobby Deen and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.